Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


Seventh International Conference; Merida, Mexico; 2013

Event Details

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Invited Symposium #32
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Cultural Practices in Behavior Analysis
Monday, October 7, 2013
4:00 PM–5:20 PM
Yucatan II (Fiesta Americana)
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: M. Jackson Marr (Georgia Tech)
Discussant: Joao Claudio Todorov (Universidade de Brasilia)
CE Instructor: Joao Claudio Todorov, Ph.D.

Cultural practices are maintained by social contingencies that prevail in a given society, group, or organization. They may be in vigor for variable lengths of time, from some months, as in fashion, to some centuries, as contingencies that are part of the identity of ethnic groups. Most human operant behavior may come under the classification of cultural practices. Even behaviors common to all humans, like eating, are linked to social contingencies that determine what and how to eat. Such behaviors are acquired by newcomers to any given group, either a child or a stranger, by learning processes that may involve modeling, rules, and/or direct exposure to the contingencies. So contingencies, more than behaviors or consequences, are better to characterize any event as cultural.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Cultural contingencies
Target Audience:

Anyone interested in cultural contingencies.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the event, participants should be able to: -- Define “selecting cultural environment.” -- Explain the relationship between “contingency” and “metacontingency.” -- Explain how the concept of metacontingency relates individual behavior to the behavior of individuals in groups? -- Explain the role of behavior analysis in the study of complex organizations? -- Explain how contingency management can help in decreasing violence in schools? -- Define culture from the point of view of behavior analysis. -- Explain what is an interlocked behavioral contingency? -- Explain how the concept of “behavioral contingency” relates to the concept of “aggregate product”?

Cultural Practices and Contingencies of Selection

SIGRID S. GLENN (University of North Texas)

Behavior analysts generally recognize that the operation of behavioral principles in the everyday world is constrained by the biology of behaving organisms and, in the case of humans, by the particulars of the cultural environment in which behavior occurs. In this paper, we distinguish between process and content in behavioral and cultural domains. We explore the constraints on behavior imposed by culture, conceived here as that part of the environment constructed by multiple people over extended time periods. It is suggested that "cultural practices" is not a technical term in a behavior analytic analysis of cultures, but rather is an everyday term used for a multiplicity of phenomena. The phenomena commonly called "cultural practices" are examined as products of various combinations of behavioral and cultural level contingencies of selection.

Sigrid S. Glenn, Regents Professor Emeritus at the University of North Texas (UNT), was the founding chair of its Department of Behavior Analysis and the primary author of its ABAI-accredited master’s program, as well as the nation’s first bachelor’s degree program in applied behavior analysis. She is a past president of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and was chosen as one of ABAI’s five founding fellows.  Dr. Glenn’s published work includes empirical and theoretical articles, as well as books and book chapters, targeting audiences within and outside behavior analysis. She travels nationally and internationally, lecturing on behavior theory and philosophy and cultural processes from a behavior analytic world view.

Behavioral Systems as Metacontingencies

INGUNN SANDAKER (Oslo and Akershus University College)

In contrast to many social sciences, behavior analysis offers a technical conceptual framework that is generic in the sense that it is valid in different contexts and for a variety of organisms. The selectionist perspective adds value to the analysis of behavior at different levels of complexity. The systems' perspective extends the scale and scope for behavior analysis to explain such phenomena as emergent behavior, self-organizing behavioral systems and the consequences of cultural cusps. The complex (functional) relations between behaviors and systems contingencies might be relevant when exploring both cultural selection and the selection of cultures.

Dr. Ingunn Sandaker is a professor and program director of the Master and Research Program Learning in Complex Systems at Oslo and Akershus University College. She also initiated the development of the first the Ph.D. program in behavior analysis in Norway. She has been the program director since it was established in 2010. She received her Ph.D. in 1997 at the University of Oslo with a grant from the Foundation for Research in Business and Society (SNF) at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH).  Her thesis was a study on the systemic approach to major changes in two large companies; one pharmaceutical company and one gas and petroleum company. During preparations for the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, and Nagano, Japan, she was head of evaluation of a program aiming at extending female participation in management and coaching and assisting the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s preparations for the games. For a number of years, Dr. Sandaker worked as an adviser on management training and performance in STATOIL and Phillips Petroleum Co. Norway. She also was project manager for Railo International who in cooperation with the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration ran a project preparing the electricity supply system in Norway for marked deregulations. Serving as a consultant on top level management programs in Norwegian energy companies, her interest has been focused on performance management within a systems framework. Trying to combine the approaches from micro-level behavior analysis with the perspective of learning in complex systems, and cultural phenomena, she is interested in integrating complementary scientific positions with the behavior analytic conceptual framework.

Cultural Systems Analysis and Collective Violence

MARK A. MATTAINI (Jane Addams College of Social Work-UIC)

Collective violence (war, terrorism, violent political conflicts, genocide, repression, organized criminal activity, disappearances, torture, and a range of other abuses of human rights) killed at least 200 million people, and injured an incalculable number during the 20th century. The problem clearly continues into the present in many parts of the world, and offers a rich field for exploring the dynamics of cultural systems. This paper explores the roots of such violence from the perspective of the natural science of behavior, which in combination with historical observation at least suggests potential approaches for understanding and challenging patterns of violence perpetrated among interlocking cultural entities and populations. Examples explored here will be drawn from post-colonial states, in which the dynamics of collective violence can be particularly challenging. The analyses that will be presented suggest that policy makers and communities often rely on politically manipulated strategies that are inherently weak or counterproductive. Constructional options (as sketched here and developed in detail in the authors recent book Strategic Nonviolent Power) offer alternatives drawing on recent advances in the selectionist analysis of cultural practices, networks of interlocking behavioral contingencies, and metacontingencies within behavioral systems. Behavioral systems/cultural analysts face enormous challenges and opportunities in this work, meriting the commitment of substantial scientific resources.

Mark Mattaini, DSW, is an associate professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. Editor of the journal Behavior and Social Issues, Dr. Mattaini is also the author/editor of 10 books, including PEACE POWER for Adolescents: Strategies for a Culture of Nonviolence (NASW Press), and Finding Solutions to Social Problems: Behavioral Strategies for Change (American Psychological Association, with Bruce Thyer), and more than 80 other publications. Since the mid-1990s, Dr. Mattaini has focused his research and practice on behavioral systems analysis for violence prevention with youth, and analyses of the dynamics of nonviolent struggle. His new book, Strategic Nonviolent Power: The Science of Satyagraha, published by Athabasca University Press and available in open access format online, analyzes potential contributions of behavioral systems science to nonviolent social action and civil resistance supporting justice and human rights. He also is consulting with the American Friends Service Committee on peace building projects.



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